Don’t neutralize the prosecution

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Don’t neutralize the prosecution

The prosecution officially rejected the Justice Ministry’s reform outline designed to scale back — or shut down — divisions which can investigate criminal cases directly. But the ministry is poised to push its restructuring plan despite the risk of undermining the prosecution’s role as an investigator.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office handed in its opinion to the ministry’s proposal, arguing that anticorruption investigation capabilities will be significantly impaired if such divisions are closed or scaled down. The Justice Ministry on Monday gave the top law enforcement agency only two days to submit its opinion after it announced a plan to merge 13 out of 41 direct investigation offices with the existing criminal investigation or trial departments. The ministry also embarked on working to reshuffle department chief-level prosecutors at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ office, the most powerful law enforcement body after the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

The motive behind the reorganization of the prosecution is being questioned. Prosecutors believe that the Justice Ministry is aiming to replace the investigation teams that have been probing into allegations against senior Blue House officials in the liberal Moon Jae-in administration. Under the internal rule, the middle-rank prosecutors should serve their term for at least a year. But the reorganization plan would make a such a fast — and excessive — reshuffle possible because of the regulation which allows it when there is large-scale reorganization of the prosecution.

If that happens, it could shut down the ongoing investigations on the alleged Blue House meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election in 2018 and the Blue House’s alleged suspension of inspection on former Busan Mayor Yoo Jae-soo over corruption and abuse of power.

The new outline also could affect the prosecution’s investigations on anticorruption and economic crimes because the ministry’s reorganization plan also applies to the prosecution’s special divisions devoted to securities, tax, and food and drug crimes. If they are shut down, the prosecution’s expertise on such specialized fields could be weakened.

The Justice Ministry is shaking the law and order system only to protect the Blue House. If the prosecution has abused its investigative authority, the problem can be addressed in other ways.

The ruling power is recklessly damaging law and order through what it calls “legitimate” methods. It must stop a politically-motivated campaign once and for all.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 17, Page 30

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